Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Maestro Rabbenu Placido Domingo

Will Serve as Interim Rabbi: The Rabbinic Search Committee of Congregation B'nai Israel of Albuquerque is proud to announce that revered tenor Placido Domingo has been engaged to serve as Interim Rabbi for the 5777 Rabbinical Year.

As many of us in the Albuquerque Jewish community are aware (see Wanna Be Our Rabbi?), B'nai Israel has for months been working with the Conservative Movement's Rabbinical Assembly to identify and secure the future services of a "new" rabbi.

The Rabbinic Search Committee devoted - and devoted is the correct term here - countless hours to achieve the best results for B'nai Israel.

In March, B'nai Israel invited three (3) rabbinic candidates to visit Albuquerque, experience firsthand the Land of Enchantment, and try out for the CBI Rabbi position.

Earlier this week, the Rabbinic Search Committee informed the congregation that not one (zero zilch nada effes klum) of the rabbinic candidates who had been offered the position had accepted.

Shaken but stirred to action, the Committee immediately began the search for an Interim Rabbi.

And then Maestro Rabbenu Placido Domingo called.

As we all surely remember, last year Maestro Rabbenu helped lead B'nai Israel's Second Seder. He also davened Musaf on the first two days of the Passover holiday.

And as much as we loved him, he loved us.

We learned last year that Placido Domingo was born to a prominent Sephardi family in Madrid, Spain. He lived and learned in Israel for many years - his children are sabras - and then moved to Teaneck, New Jersey.

It was in Teaneck ("the Brooklyn of New Jersey") that Maestro Rabbenu completed his studies and received (private) rabbinic ordination within the Conservative Movement.

Placido Domingo has, according to some estimates, a net worth of somewhere in the neighborhood of $200 million. He has agreed to serve as B'nai Israel's Interim Rabbi for the sum of $1. Says Maestro Rabbenu:

"You've got to have rachmones on the congregation.
I'll be happy to work for $1 and the kavod."

The return of Maestro Rabbenu in this new capacity is seen as the first step of a major transformation of Congregation B'nai Israel, the only* Conservative synagogue in the State of New Mexico.
* The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ) has welcomed HaMakom in Santa Fe on its Facebook page. Abq Jew has not been able to independently confirm this wonderful news.

As he did last year, Maestro Rabbenu will again help lead B'nai Israel's Second Seder. He will also daven Musaf on the first two days of the Passover holiday.

And this year, Maestro Rabbenu will also MC and perform in From Madrid to Madrid, a traditional Mimouna celebration (at the end of Passover), to be held at (where else?) the Mine Shaft Tavern in Madrid, New Mexico.

Abq Jew reminds his loyal readers to celebrate

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

On to Passover

The New World Haggadah: This year, international prize-winning author Ilan Stavans and award-winning international artist (and, Abq Jew is proud to say, friend) Gloria Abella Ballen have combined their talents to create The New World Haggadah.

Those of you who have seen Gloria's visually stunning work (see, for example, The Power of the Hebrew Alphabet) have a good idea of what to expect in this new project.

And Gloria does not disappoint.

Here is what Ilan says about The New World Haggadah.
My intention in The New World Haggadah is to make Moses emblematic of today’s complex world. 
Not too long ago, I discovered another poem by Emma Lazarus that in my eyes is quite similar to “The New Colossus.” It is called “1492” and it looks at that annus mirabilis as a fracturing moment, a kind of Big Bang that gave birth to a cornucopia of Diaspora events, each with its own metabolism.

The Jewish Diaspora across the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East, and the Atlantic Ocean to what we call the Americas is exemplified by a plethora of languages and traditions. 
I want to bridge the gap between North and South and between East and West, between Ashkenazim and Sephardim, and between Africans, Europeans, and mestizos. 1492 is the year that changed the world. 
For better or worse we were all born from the common wellspring of those events.

Here is what Abq Jew says about The New World Haggadah.
The strength of The New World Haggadah is that it is not traditional. 
Most (but not all) of the elements of the traditional Haggadah are represented here. Nevertheless, the most traditional among us will not wish to swap out their full-text Haggadot.
But for those who are willing to engage with this non-traditional text (and, of course, the stunning visuals), the rewards are great.
And Ilan continues -
What makes this a new Haggadah is its multicultural—and multilingual—qualities, like growing up Jewish and speaking Yiddish in Catholic, Spanish-speaking Mexico. 
Even today, sitting at the Seder table looking at the matzah, maror, and other ubiquitous culinary ingredients, my mouth still salivates thinking about the cajeta in our Seders in Mexico. 
I have reconfigured the liturgy to be more embracing, inserting voices seeking freedom through renewal. 
Among others are the Ladino cumulative song Un Cavritico, a chant used during the Civil Rights Movement, a protest song, a traditional Judeo-Spanish song about Moses leaving Egypt, and a disquisition about having one’s heart divided by the medieval poet Yehuda Halevi. 
The gorgeous art of Gloria Abella Ballen enlivens every page.
Click here to order! 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Happy Purim!

Happy Purim! What are we to do about Purim this year? Abq Jew's usual mirth and merriment seem to have abandoned him. From the awful news about DJT at AIPAC to the lehavdil terrible, terrible news from Belgium, it seems there can be no satire or irony this year.

Nevertheless - Abq Jew wishes us all

Here is a photo from Israel -

This Princess Don't Need No Prince Charming

And here is an article from The Jewish Week -
All-Denominational Prayer Book Published 
New York -- A new Sabbath and Holiday prayer book intended for all denominations of Judaism was released this week, the joint effort of scholars from Yeshiva University, Jewish Theological Seminary, Hebrew Union College, and Congregation Shalom al Yisroel, the noted LGBT synagogue. 
“The aim of this new prayer book,” explained its editor, Rabbi Shonda Charpa, “is to provide congregants of all backgrounds with the most user-friendly text possible.” 
“For example,” the rabbi noted, “in the Orthodox portion of the siddur, the traditional Hebrew term for God—Hashem--has been changed to the more casual Shemmy.” 
“And to appeal to youth, all the prayers are presented in rap,” the rabbi continued. “The Shma now goes, ‘Hear O Israel, Shemmy is One; Kiss your tzitzis, and now you’re done!’” 
The Conservative section of the book is printed in the style of a Chinese menu, where users can pick and choose the prayers they would like to say. “We recommend at least one prayer from Column A and two from Column B,” the rabbi said, “but ultimately it’s up to each person to decide what to recite. And substitutions are allowed.” 
The Reform section of the siddur consists of a call-in number for congregants too busy to attend services and an essay on “How To Say Tikkun Olam In Hebrew.” 
The Reconstructionist section includes English transliteration of Hebrew prayers to help the non-Jewish spouse or partner of the officiating rabbi stay awake during services. 
For LGBT users, the pages turn from the spine of the book rather than from the outer edges. “To show that we’re sensitive to those who do things differently,” the rabbi explained. 
The new prayer book also includes a section for fervent interfaith congregants with instructions on the proper blessing when combining the hunt for Easter eggs with b’dikas chametz (the search for leaven) on the night before Passover. 
“I remember part of the blessing,” said I.M. Now-Tribe, a recent convert. “I believe it says ‘asher bawchar bunny’ …

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Easter on Purim

Not on Passover: Those of you following the Abq Jewish Event Calendar and (of course) the Hebrew Calendar as well as the Gregorian "Civil" Calendar have probably noticed that this year Easter Sunday falls right after Purim, and not, as it does so often, right after Passover.

How, Abq Jew hears you ask, can this be?  Are not the holidays of Passover and Easter semi-historically* interrelated?
* While everyone else seems to believe that the Last Supper was the Passover Seder, Hyam Maccoby (in Abq Jew's view correctly) places it during Sukkot, the Festival of Tabernacles. To learn more, see Maccoby's book Revolution in Judaea.
To which Abq Jew must (truly, he must) reply:

It's complicated.

How complicated? Abq Jew hears you ask.

To which Abq Jew must (truly, he must) reply:

Very, very complicated.

For a "brief" introduction to just how complicated, Abq Jew asks that you review Nineteen and Twenty-Eight, his blog post of April 11 2013.

Ready to continue? Here are a few important dates to keep in mind.
  • March 8: New Moon (Gregorian Calendar)
  • March 10/11. Rosh Hodesh Adar 2 (Hebrew Calendar)
  • March 19 @ 10:30 pm:  March Equinox in Albuquerque
  • March 23: Full Moon (Gregorian Calendar)
  • March 23/24: Purim (Hebrew Calendar)
  • March 24/25: Shushan Purim (Hebrew Calendar)
  • March 25: Good Friday (Gregorian Calendar)
  • March 27: Easter (Gregorian Calendar)
  • April 7: New Moon (Gregorian Calendar)
  • April 17: Blah, Blah, Blah Day (Really)
  • April 21: Full Moon (Gregorian Calendar)
  • April 22: First Seder (Hebrew Calendar)
  • April 22/23: Passover Day 1 (Hebrew Calendar)
  • May 1: Easter (Eastern Orthodox Calendar) 
So, having reviewed Nineteen and Twenty-Eight (you did, didn't you?) we understand fully why Passover falls so "late."
In the fourth century, Hillel II established a fixed calendar based on mathematical and astronomical calculations. This calendar, still in use, standardized the length of months and the addition of months over the course of a 19 year cycle, so that the lunar calendar realigns with the solar years. Adar I is added in the 3rd, 6th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 17th and 19th years of the cycle. The current cycle began in Jewish year 5758 (the year that began October 2, 1997). further explains
While the Sanhedrin presided in Jerusalem, there was no set calendar. They would evaluate every year to determine whether it should be declared a leap year. 
Several factors were considered in the course of their deliberations. The primary factor, which overrode all others, was the spring equinox. If the spring equinox would fall later than the first half of Nissan (i.e., on the 16th or later), then the year was automatically declared to be a leap year. 
However, it wasn’t enough for Passover to fall after the equinox, when it was “officially” spring; spring-like conditions needed to be evidenced. If in the land of Israel the barley had not yet ripened, and the trees were not yet blossoming with seasonal fruit—that, too, was sufficient reason to delay Nissan by adding a second month of Adar. Spring should be felt; it should be bright and green. 
There were also several non-season-related factors which the Sanhedrin considered; for example, if the roads or bridges were in disrepair due to the winter rainy season, impeding the ability of the pilgrims to travel to Jerusalem for Passover. 
In the 4th century CE, the sage Hillel II foresaw the disbandment of the Sanhedrin, and understood that we would no longer be able to follow a Sanhedrin-based calendar. So Hillel and his rabbinical court established the perpetual calendar which is followed today. 

But for Christians, the question then becomes:

Why doesn't Easter always follow Passover?

The simple answer is that the date for Easter has been set for all time according to the Formula of the Council of Nicaea.
In A.D. 325, the Council of Nicaea set the date of Easter as the Sunday following the paschal full moon, which is the full moon that falls on or after the vernal (spring) equinox
In practice, that means that Easter is always the first Sunday after the first full moon that falls on or after March 21. Easter can occur as early as March 22 and as late as April 25, depending on when the paschal full moon falls.
The formula was designed to place Easter at the same point in the astronomical cycle every year. And it does that quite well. But there are two key factors that are in tension:
  1. Historically, Easter should always fall after Passover, to preserve the New Testament's recorded sequence of events.
  2. Theologically, Easter replaces and is entirely separate from Passover, and Christians should not rely on the Hebrew calendar to determine the dates of their holy days.
Eastern Christians tend to emphasize #1, while Western Christians tend to emphasize #2. And then there's the astronomically incorrect Julian calendar that Eastern Christians follow, which throws them off from the get-go.

Which brings us to

When, Abq Jew hears you ask, should Purim be celebrated?

To which Abq Jew must (truly, he must) reply:

It's complicated.

How complicated? Abq Jew hears you ask.

To which Abq Jew must (truly, he must) reply:

Very, very complicated.

For a "brief" introduction to just how complicated, Abq Jew herewith joyfully quotes the first mishna in Tractate Megilla (OK, the English translation), which, perhaps not surprisingly, deals with the holiday of Purim and its observance.
The Megilla is read sometimes on the 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, or on the 15th of the month Adar, neither earlier nor later. Cities which, from the time of Joshua the son of Nun, were surrounded with walls, read it on the 15th. 
Villages and large open towns should read it on the 14th, and inhabitants of villages may read it in advance on the day of assembly. 1 How is this to be understood? When the 14th fell on Monday, inhabitants of villages and of large open towns used to read it on that day, and those of walled cities on the day following. 
When it fell on Tuesday or Wednesday, the inhabitants of villages used to read it in advance (the preceding Monday) on the day of assembly, those of large open towns on that day (the 14th), and those of walled towns on the morrow. When it fell on Thursday, inhabitants of villages and large open towns used to read it on that day, and of walled towns on the following day. 
If it fell on the eve of Sabbath, inhabitants of villages read it in advance on the preceding or day of assembly, and those of large open towns and of walled towns on that day (14th). When it fell on Sabbath, inhabitants of villages and large open towns read it in advance on the preceding Thursday, the day of assembly; and of walled towns on the morrow (the Sunday). 
When it fell on Sunday, in villages they read it on the preceding day of assembly (Thursday), and in large open towns on that day (14th), and in walled cities on the morrow.
In the modern world, such as it is, we've got the the observance of Purim down to
  • The 15th of Adar in Jerusalem.
  • The 14th of Adar everyplace else.

Of course this year this means that
  • In Jerusalem, Western Christians will observe Good Friday while Jews are celebrating Shushan Purim.
  • Everyplace else, Western Christians will observe Maundy Thursday while Jews are celebrating Purim.
Of course this year this means that
Western Christians will be solemn and sad
while Jews are lighthearted, merry, and cheerful.
The exact opposite of the way most Jews remember their European history.

But that was there and then, and we are blessed to be living in the here and now. In Jerusalem and everyplace else, Jews will be Dancing in the Streets!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Kicking the Bucket

Almost Purim: Yes, next week is almost Purim! Which means that Abq Jew's former ShopRite in his former Livingston, New Jersey home already has their miles of aisles of Passover goods on display.

Including a connoisseur's assortment of shmura matzah and really, really good dark chocolate covered macaroons.

As you, Abq Jew's loyal readers, read this, there are about 42 days before the First Seder. You can keep track by clicking here.

Purim and Pesach are such wonderful, lively family holidays. Abq Jew loves them.

So let's talk about death. You know - like

Kicking the Bucket

Or, as so delightfully depicted in 1963's It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World:

Abq Jew is happy to bring up death because on Sunday April 10, right between Purim and Pesach, the Chevre Kaddisha of Greater Albuquerque will be holding its Annual Meeting. For the first time in almost two years. Don't ask.

If you don't know what the Chevre Kaddisha does - someday (may it not be soon or sudden!) you will. (Actually, the Chevre Kaddisha is looking for new members.) You can read more about it here.

Even better, take a look at this brand-new video from G-dcast.

And as for those former, current, and future Israelis in our midst who have politely yet forcefully pointed out to Abq Jew
  • that, in modern Hebrew, the word "chevre" means "social group" or "band of brothers (and sisters)" - 
  • and that, therefore, the organization should be called (as it is in most other communities) the Chevra Kaddisha - 
Abq Jew joyfully concedes that you are probably correct.

So why, Abq Jew hears you ask, does Abq Jew continue to spell it Chevre

That, Abq Jew and Stephen Colbert (Look at that!
in the same sentence!)
can tell you in one word:


Shabbat Shalom, Albuquerque!
Good Shabbos, New Mexico!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Kaplansky Sings Kaplansky

A Song About Pi: Yes, Abq Jew realizes that Pi Day 2016 (March 14, of course) is almost a week away. But we all need time to prepare, don't we?

And furthermore ... Abq Jew has been spending a lot of time lately working on his family tree at

The 650-person family tree that Abq Jew inherited from his father, Richard W Yellin, of blessed memory, is now up to more than 1000 people - thanks to MyHeritage's discoveries and the addition of the entire US Oring family of Great Grand Mama.

Renowned singer-songwriter Lucy Kaplansky has also inherited from her father, noted mathematician Irving Kaplansky, of blessed memory.

As Abq Jew wrote in 2011 (see Lucy Kaplansky Performs in Abq!)
Originally from Chicago, Lucy Kaplansky decided -  right after high school - not to go to college.  Instead, she moved to New York City and became involved in the city's folk music scene, particularly around Greenwich Village. 
A few years later, she decided to become a psychologist. She earned a PhD in clinical psychology from Yeshiva University, set up a private practice, and become a staff psychologist at a New York hospital. 
But Lucy's first love was music.  She eventually gave up the psychology thing and began performing full time, appearing with such folk music icons as Shawn Colvin,  Suzanne Vega, Nanci Griffith, and John Gorka.  Her best-known collaboration was with Richard Shindell and Dar Williams, in the 1998 one-album supergroup Cry Cry Cry. 
Lucy's father was the noted mathematician Irving Kaplansky.  Lucy sometimes performs songs composed by her father (who was also an accomplished pianist) on mathematics-related themes. 
Here is Lucy Kaplansky singing her father's Song About Pi

The YouTube "liner notes" tell us:
"Kaplansky Sings Kaplansky" is an independently produced recording of Lucy singing her father's original songs. 
The album was conceived by [husband] Rick Litvin and Lucy Kaplansky and includes studio performances as well as a series of live performances of Lucy accompanied by her dad in Berkeley at the Freight and Salvage in 2000. 
Lucy's father, noted mathematician Irving Kaplansky, was a professor at Harvard, where Tom Lehrer was his student. 
Kaplansky was also a professor at the University of Chicago; Director of Mathematical Sciences Research Institute; President of The American Mathematical Society; made major contributions to group theory, ring theory, the theory of operator algebras, and field theory; and published over 150 papers.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Marble Music for Shabbat

The Wintergatan Marble Machine: At first, Abq Jew was going to write about Donald Trump and The Jews. But that topic is just way too depressing, and "inappropriate"  - remember when it wasn't inappropriate to use the word "wrong"? - for Erev Shabbat.

How about Ivanka? Someday she and husband Jared Kushner - both observant Jews! - may be our best defense against the Trumpocalypse.

No, Abq Jew is just not ready for that Purimspiel.

So how about the Wintergatan Marble Machine?

The video has been going around the Internet for a few days. ICYMI - here is what the website This Is Colossal says about it.
Swedish musician Martin Molin has long had experience with esoteric instruments like the glockenspiel, traktofon, or Theremin, but he may have topped his musical prowess with the invention of his own new instrument: the Wintergatan Marble Machine, a hand-cranked music box loaded with instruments including a circuit of 2,000 cascading steel marbles. 
As the devices cycles it activates a vibraphone, bass, kick drum, cymbal and other instruments that play a score programmed into a 32 bar loop comprised of LEGO technic parts. The marbles are moved internally through the machine using funnels, pulleys, and tubes. 
Molin began work on the marble machine in August 2014 and hoped to spend about two months on the project. Its complexity soon spiraled out of control as all 3,000 internal parts had to be designed and fabricated by hand, a time-consuming process that eventually took 14 months. 
An early version was designed using 3D software, but it was easier for Molin to create parts on the fly leading to it’s Frankenstein appearance. The musician shared much of his progress in regular video updates that he shared on YouTube.
As Abq Jew pointed out in A Bessing for Bezalel, there appears to be no blessing in the Jewish canon for hearing good music played well - by human or machine.

But it may (Abq Jew is not a rabbi; see Wanna Be A Rabbi?) be appropriate to recite this bracha if you happen to meet Martin Molin:
Upon seeing a wise man distinguished for other than Torah knowledge: one recites " ... who has given of his wisdom to flesh and blood (שׁתן מחכמתו לבשׂר ודם)."

Shabbat Shalom, Albuquerque!
Good Shabbos, New Mexico!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Folk Music Revival

A Complete History in Three Sessions: Do you remember, way back in October 2011,when Abq Jew posted about The Reduced Shakespeare Company (if not, see Rejoicing Again) and their 97-minute condensation of all 37 of The Bard of Avon's imputed works?

Well, Abq Jew remembers. And is proud to announce that OASIS Albuquerque is about to do something rather similar for The Complete History of the Folk Music Revival in America (Abridged). Or, as the wise OASIS folks have decided to call it,

A Making Music Workshop 
The Folk Music Revival in America
Fri 4-11-18 March 2016 @ 10:30 am - #85
Instructor: Amy Gillespie

What It Is: During this three-part series, learn the basics of music making with a group while playing our instruments and singing the music of folk ensembles from the 40s to the ballad singer-songwriters of the 60s. Bring your banjo, fiddle, guitar, ukulele, voice (and music stand) and come enjoy the experience of playing music with others in a relaxed and sharing environment. All experience and skill levels welcome. Materials fee of $3 payable to instructor for music book (cash or check). Limited enrollment.

Amy Gillespie has been active in the music community in Albuquerque since 2000. Her choral experience includes the UNM Chorus, Las Cantantes Women's Chorus and Polyphony: Voices of New Mexico. Amy has a BA in contemporary music and is currently completing advanced studies in musicology. She has facilitated guitar classes for UNM Continuing Education and ensemble sessions through Guitar Associates of Albuquerque, where she has been a managing partner and teacher since 1995.

How, Abq Jew hears you ask, can we sing and play The Complete History of the Folk Music Revival in America (even Abridged) in just three sessions?

Here is how Abq Jew would do it. (Instructor Amy Gillespie may do it differently.)

Session 1
Woody, Pete, and The Weavers

Session 2
Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Judy Collins, Peter, Paul & Mary,
Tom Paxton, The McGarrigles, The Chad Mitchell Trio

Session 3
Everybody Else

Everybody Else includes, of course, everybody else. Some of us were born during The Folk Music Revival; others of us were mere teenagers then. Most of us are still living it.

Are you one of us? Come join in!

Here is Connor Zwetsch to help you think about it. Never heard of her? She is one of the newbies, not one of the oldies. Her website says
Florida-bred in true 90s form, Connor Zwetsch was raised on the warm singer/songwriter anthems and pop mania that colored the era. It was in these formative years, in artists such as Matchbox 20 and New Radicals, that Connor first found a sense of belonging. 
Nowadays, Connor’s unique niche as a solo artist is defined by a sound laced with nostalgia and shaped by a back-porch songwriter’s honesty with a penchant for catchy, upbeat melodies.

Keep the tradition going. Keep the tradition growing.